Tony Lee on Hope Falls

Tony Lee, writer of Hope Falls, sent out a kind of dare for sites to interview him. I took him up on it, but me being me, I didn’t want to ask the typical questions, so I went with a more business-oriented slant. For preview art samples and a different approach, check out his Newsarama interview.

I was surprised, talking to him, to learn about a shipping hurdle that UK comic companies have to face I wasn’t previously aware of.

What’s the “quick pitch” for Hope Falls? If you only have a few moments to convince someone to read it, how do you do it?

By getting on my knees and crying. Seriously though, I give the ‘Hollywood’ high concept – it’s The Crow meets Twin Peaks when Helen, a female Angel free falling towards Hell, returns to the steel mill town where she was killed twenty years earlier — to extract revenge on her four murderers. But then there’s a little bit of a Da Vinci Code twist when Michael, the Angel trying to stop her, discovers that the original murder and current revenge spree were both sanctified by the church and Heaven itself…

Hope Falls is planned to be a five-issue miniseries, shipping monthly. How much of it is completed, and what are you doing to make sure the book ships as promised?

Currently? The first issue’s still about four weeks from shipping and we’re on issue #4 as we speak. We’re hoping to be done somewhere between #1 and #2’s release, so we’re running on schedule.

The biggest problem we have with shipping is that we are published by AAM/Markosia, a UK company who deal with Diamond through Diamond UK. This means that we’ve been finding that Diamond UK ship to the States far less often than the other way around, so whereas an Image comic can be in the States on a Wednesday and the UK on a Thursday, we can find one of our comics in the UK on a Thursday and the States a month later. Which of course is when #2 his the UK, and therefore all out ‘out this week’ PR gets screwed up.

Hopefully by having the copies out the first week in November in the UK means that they’ll be in the US stores by the end of the month. But Markosia are always ready on time — it’s Diamond’s schedules that kill them. The only way they could do it is to move to Diamond US, but Markosia had problems in the first place that made them move back from the US. It’s a catch-22 situation.

Why should someone buy the issues now instead of waiting for the collected volume?

You see, that’s the one problem we’ll always have with this — I want you to buy the comics, because healthy sales shows AAM/Markosia that the book itself is worth putting into a trade. If too many people ‘wait for the trade’, sales suffer and the book is ultimately cancelled before then. Look what happened with Midnight Kiss — so many people waited for the trade, the book was canned and it took years to convince AAM/Markosia to print the book, as they believed that it wouldn’t sell. It took a letter-writing campaign to prove otherwise.

I’m guilty of being a wait for the trade kind of guy, but we have two audiences to sell to here. One thing we have found is we have a ton of fans who, when it’s announced, will walk into their local shop and ask for it, only to find it wasn’t ordered. The term ‘preorder’ is a confusing one to many of them. And of course, if they miss #1 and the shop doesn’t reorder it? We lose that customer until the trade comes out. And when a hundred, two hundred copies are lost like that, the ratio starts to drop between profitable and pointless.

That said, the first issue’s preorders are low but healthy, and AAM/Markosia has guaranteed us that all five will ship. Personally? I’d suggest all five and the trade, Make your collection complete!

Who’s your target audience? I was interested in the spiritual/supernatural aspects of vengeance beyond death, but then I saw the cover to issue #3, which seems to veer into gory/gross-out-type scares. Can you talk a bit about who you’re aiming for?

It’s very much a mature-themed book, I think the fact that the main character was raped before she murders firmly puts a full stop on that. But the covers are also decided by the marketing — I can tell a story, but at the end of the day it needs to stand out and be counted.

With the covers, Szymon Kudranski has done an incredible job with artistic painted covers that really push out the statement that this is a book worth picking up, worth looking at. The idea of having ‘Papa’ on the cover, doll of an Angel in his hand, was in my opinion inspired. It introduces a character not mentioned anywhere, and since we previewed it on the website, we have literally had dozens of emails and messages saying that this was the cover that sold them. Personally, my favourite one is still #4, although that said I’ve just seen the pencils for the final one and again, Szymon has done incredible work.

As for the target market? I would say in a nutshell the Vertigo crowd. People who aren’t just looking for capes and tights action. Therefore a more mature, discerning reader.

What drove you to write this story? What makes it unique to you and why are you the only person who can tell it?

I’m one of those people that still thinks that no story is unique to a writer. I’m not the only person who can tell this story, but I’m the only person who’s currently telling this story.

As for what drove me? I’ve spent years fascinated about Angels and the right of free will and all that, as well as the whole ‘did Jesus have a bloodline’ books that were around for decades before The Da Vinci Code. I’ve had this story in my head for over twenty years, in a variety of formats. It actually started off as a western, of all things. Thank god I was convinced away from that.

I wanted to write a story that didn’t insult any faiths but however challenged them. But at the same time could be read and enjoyed by someone who quite frankly didn’t give a crap on whether Jesus had babies or whether Angels could kill. It’s a revenge flick with morals and when I worked out the end, I knew I just had to write from the start.

Why is your artist the best choice to tell this story? What brought you together?

Actually, Dan wasn’t my first choice. It was actually Rantz Hoseley, who is currently doing Displaced Persons for Image. His style was a lot darker, but scheduling issues meant that he couldn’t do it.

For a while after, I put it on a shelf, just didn’t even consider it. Then at the start of the year I was talking to Dan Boultood, and he asked for a shot. Now I’ve known Dan for years now, he’s a good friend and we did The Gloom together back in 2004/05 but I always felt that his style was Cartoon Network when we were shooting for HBO. But Dan was looking for something new to get his teeth into, adamant he could do it, and wanted to try a new style — and when we got the concepts back, I was sold.

He’s changed his style enough to still keep the stylized ‘animated’ look, but at the same time there are moments, scenes, panels, and colours that just chill you to the bone. I can’t actually envision this book done in any other way now, and so far every critic of Dan’s old style has been silenced with the new. I look at a couple of the pages that Rantz did compared with Dan’s ones, and they just look wrong. Dan’s made this book his own, and I think that it compliments my writing – no. Actually it improves it.

Big thanks to Tony for putting up with my cheek, and I wish him the best with the project. I’m not entirely convinced by his “wait for the trade” answer — I know why it makes sense to him for readers not to wait, but I’m not sure why it makes sense to the readers for the readers not to wait — but since that’s one of the defining debates of the industry this decade, I didn’t expect him to solve it all himself. I am very curious to see more of this series, since there’s so much potential for where it could go.


7 Responses to “Tony Lee on Hope Falls”

  1. Joshua Says:

    I suppose I can’t really fault Tony Lee for not having a solution to the single-issue vs. trades problem, but I’m past the point where I’ll buy something in single issues to show my support or help them convince the publisher to release it as a trade. And I’m sure as hell not going to buy it both ways to complete my collection. I’ve got plenty of other uses for my entertainment dollar, and prefer that my charitable contributions go to actual charity.

  2. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Oct. 30, 2007: Ditko’s hands Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson speaks with Hope Falls writer Tony Lee, and reviews the first issue of his new [...]

  3. Tomorrow’s Comics Today » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Hope Falls #1 (Markosia, $3.50) is out — that’s a link to my preview review (promising!), and I’ve also interviewed the writer. [...]

  4. Tomorrow’s Comics Today: May Previews for Books Shipping July 2009 or Later » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] for example, Hope Falls. The miniseries, written by Tony Lee, had a collection planned for release this year, but it fell victim to “not enough [...]

  5. Good Comics Out July 27: Mostly Books This Time » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] follow. The miniseries began in issue form in November 2007. The UK origin of the series caused shipping snags, and the 2009 collection‘s orders through Diamond were cancelled for not being high enough. [...]

  6. Future Films Options Comic Book HOPE FALLS Says:

    [...] like the way Lee pitched it back in 2007: “It’s The Crow meets Twin Peaks when Helen, a female Angel free falling towards Hell, [...]

  7. Movie Production Studio Future Films Options Comic Hope Falls | Espace Studio Says:

    [...] select films. For those unfamiliar with the comic, Collider reports the following from an earlier interview with the comics [...]




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